I spent more time with Illustrator CS3. I'm getting the hang of the gradients now. not incredibly fast at it, but i have it down to an effective pace and fairly accurate. I'm convinced that my methods are not industry time tested standards. As I'm off the pen tool and now exclusively messing with the brush tool with a pressure sensitive Wacom tablet. I have pretty good coordination with a tablet, so it seems to work out pretty effectively for me, and allows me the intuitive thick-think variation without too much tweaking.
anywho, look at these IDIOTS!